History, one tribute at a time

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“Rarely have subjects identified so much with their Sovereign, captivated by each of their looks and words, their outfits and gestures, representing both the heritage of the past and confidence in the future. She was one with her nation: she embodied a people, a territory and a common will. And stability: above the fluctuations and upheavals of politics, it represented a feeling of eternity.

Who said these words? Boris Johnson, sure. Or was it the new Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Liz Truss, or the leader of the opposition, Sir Keir Starmer, who rose to the oratorical occasion? Tony Blair? Jacob Rees-Mogg, momentarily forget some old grudge he bears at the House of Windsor?

In fact, the man to whom these remarks are attributed is not a Briton. English is not even his first language. These words belong to Emmanuel Macron – head of state of Britain’s most formidable historical adversary. It’s not about the French president’s ability to find the right words for the occasion, although that was on display last week. Instead, it’s an examination of what global reactions to the Queen’s death say about her and the complex relationship much of the world has with the UK.

Let’s start with the UK itself. In the Commons, Johnson delivered a classical Johnsonian speech only he can: moving, melodious and imbued with references to himself. The 10 Downing Street statement describes the Queen as “the rock on which modern Britain was built”. Star hit similar notes when he said that “she held the nation together” during the Covid-19 pandemic, at a time “when we had been apart”.

The Queen’s life and the solemn pageantry of her death remind us of a time when Britain acted on the world – in Europe, Asia, Africa and the Pacific – with a force it cannot muster today. today.

What about former colonies or vassals of the UK? US President Joe Biden, reputedly proud of his Irish heritage, has published A declaration who called the Queen “a stateswoman of unequaled dignity and constancy who has deepened the fundamental alliance between the United Kingdom and the United States”. Former President Donald Trump, meanwhile, paid tribute in his inimitable rhetorical style: “What a great and beautiful lady she was – there was no one like her!” (Trump has already declared himself a “huge fan.”)

In Ireland, Taoiseach Micheál Martin published a cautious but warm statement which recognized the Queen’s historic visit to Ireland in 2011 and ended with the traditional Irish invocation, ar dheis Dé go raibh a hanam dílis (may his holy soul be on the right side of God). In Scotland, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said the Queen had been the “great constant in our national life” and that she “inspired us, comforted us on occasion and always personified the values ​​we hold dear”.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted his condolences, saying the Queen “embodied dignity and decency in public life” and that he was “pained by her passing”. His condolences were considered a little too painful by some, including those who Noted that they came a day after an event where the Prime Minister praised Indians for emerging as “another symbol of colonialism”.

Australian Governor-General David Hurley (centre left) and his wife Linda Hurley (centre right) lay a wreath in front of the statue of Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II in Canberra’s Houses of Parliament (Gary Ramage/AFP via Getty Images )

In Australia, tributes from political leaders past and present ranged from impatience with the institution (Adam Bandt) strictly speaking (Anthony Albanian) to flatter (Tony Abbottalthough a former Australian Republic activist Malcolm Turnbull ran him near). In his tribute, Peter Dutton took a look at the broad historical perspective, linking the queen to the end of the Empire and, somewhat oddly, to the race for the moon, the gaining of civil rights and “the barbarity of terrorism”. Statement by Julia Gillard mentioned of the Queen’s worth as a role model, “the responsibility of service imposed on her as a young woman and assumed with grace, devotion and dignity during her reign”. Bill Shorten’s tribute was sincere if slightly awkward, curiously noting that when Elizabeth II was born, Joan Sutherland was still seven months away from this earth and that Phar Lap had yet to win the Cup. Balanced Paul Keating his contempt for the monarchy with respect for our monarch. In truth, the range of opinions circulated about the Queen’s death was narrow. Most Australians liked or at least admired him. You had to go on the Internet to find those who took his death as an invitation to joke or joy.

For some she was a helmsman of brutal colonialism, for others the epitome of the best of Britain, for still others a witness to national decline.

The best highlights on the queen’s death mentioned her best qualities: her sense of duty, the devotion she inspired in her subjects and her determination to make the most of a role she had not asked for and which she could hardly give up.

But beneath every reaction is something else: the recognition that with her gone, the UK is the last real link between the Victorian era, when it really took over the world, and today. Its first Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, was born more than a century before his fifteenth and last. The beginning of the Queen’s 70-year reign was a time of calm and perseverance and the loss of colonial possessions: wartime stoicism, the Windrush generation, Asian and African independence, Commonwealth semi-autonomy. Her end was marred by seizures for which she was not responsible.

The Queen’s life and the solemn pageantry of her death remind us of a time when Britain acted on the world – in Europe, Asia, Africa and the Pacific – with a force it cannot muster today. today. In death, she became a Rorschach test. For some she was a helmsman of brutal colonialism, for others the epitome of the best of Britain, for still others a witness to national decline.

Friends and adversaries will debate his legacy for many years. Australia can now approach or rush to a republic. All of this is yet to come. Elizabeth II’s duty, however, is coming to an end.

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